Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan

I think I have never before played a game developed in Africa and when it's essentially an action-packed JRPG, you can really talk about a cultural exchange. With its 2D side-scrolling action married with role-play elements, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan by Cameroon-based Kiro'o Games reminds me of those fast-paced and exciting SNES and Genesis era games where nimble finger action on the joypad was just as important as a tactical approach. The game dashes past its undeniable novelty as you come to realize the richness of the game's storytelling, characterization and execution.

The player assumes the role of prince Enzo at the day of his wedding and ensuing coronation to a king. This should be the happiest day in his life but Enzo is restless about the huge responsibility of his forthcoming role as the leader of his people. After a few fevered moments and a coup, Enzo must face his qualms as he and his newlywed wife Erine suddenly find themselves exiled. The long road back to their beloved kingdom Zama begins. The young couple soon discovers the world outside their little safe haven is larger than they ever imagined, both multifaceted and distressing. Enzo must learn the four pillars of ancestral legacies through trial and tribulation to overcome his adversaries and perhaps more importantly, his own insecurity. Gameplay wise these legacies (or Aurions as they are often referred to in the lore) are elemental powers of fire, water, wind and earth which can be called upon in battle to form powerful attacks.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is the first game by Kiro'o Games. In this light, it is astonishing how mature and seasoned the gameplay is. I must admit I'm often left baffled by most JRPG's intentionally complex mechanics. It's almost as if you can't have a deep battle system without you fully understanding it. Kiro'o games proves a point against that. You're at ease controlling Enzo's actions but at the same time the mechanics driving the battle are as deep as you can hope for. You can vary between basic and elemental attacks to accumulate massive combos where you master the action.

Enzo can call Erine for help at any time during fights. She starts merely as a healer (and as your companionship with her grows, she develops nifty battle resurrection) but as Enzo gains his legacies, Erine on her behalf grasps the powers of defeated bosses. Her elemental proficiency acts as counters against enemy attacks and combined with your offensive abilities you can lash out impressive amounts of carnage. That doesn't mean the game is a walk in the park though. While the trash mobs don't take too much effort the numerous boss fights demand progressively more tactical approach and situational awareness. When not battling enemies, Enzo and Erine wander about in the lush backdrops of an imaginary and mythic Africa in a scrolling flick-screen adventure style. They encounter troubling situations and oppressed people, all entwined into the overarching storyline of Enzo's learning years. It becomes apparent the menace the young couple rises against is more of a metaphor of Enzo's growth to accept his position and legacy in the world as the player is often challenged with moral choices with no right or wrong answers.

Like the gameplay, there's unusual wisdom punctuating the storytelling and dialogue beyond what might first appear as obvious cliches. Enzo and Erine grow as persons during their exile. They have their flaws making them even more likable the more you spend time with them. The same charisma varnishes the overall appearance of the game. It may look a bit homespun but the art style is lovely with bright and bold colors and expressive characters. While maybe lacking in frames, the animation is firm and strong, bringing the action into life as sparkling and exciting. Extra mention must go to the soundtrack. As much as I love Japanese role-playing games, I must confess I sometimes find myself dozing off by their repetitive lullabies. Not here. Ethnic rhythms are spun with modern beats and a gentle bass can suddenly turn into a pumping pulse surrounded by an unexpected guitar riffs. No surprise the soundtrack is also available as a separate purchase.

Most of the technical issues plaguing the game since its release have been ironed out with patches. All that is left are spelling mistakes as English isn't developers' first language but nothing's too severe to distract from enjoying the adventure. The game is playable with a keyboard and a mouse but to fully appreciate its fast-paced gameplay an Xbox controller is practically required.

Nimble gameplay, luscious aesthetic values, wise storytelling and truly understanding the principles of its genre make Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan a breath of fresh air amidst Western games with often are marred by needless drudgery. Quite an achievement for a 2D side-scrolling action-RPG with a very modest price tag coming from an untapped territory in the world of gaming.

Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.